When we think of strength, our first thought may be someone who goes to the gym, or we may think of someone we know who has gone through a series of hard times and still holds on to their faith. In paul’s second prayer for the church at Ephesus, he focuses on the Christian’s source of strength.
Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul prayed for specific reasons; that they would be strengthened, rooted, and grounded in love and that the church (us included) would know the love of God that surpasses knowledge. Our source of strength, Jesus Christ, Himself. Because Jesus dwells in our hearts through faith, we can be rooted and grounded in love; in fact, that is a command throughout the New testament. However, we can only be rooted and grounded in love if we spend time in the Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction, correction, direction, and sanctification to have a place in our lives.
Ephesians chapter three, verse twenty, is probably one of the most quoted verses from the Bible. Still, the context surrounding the verse may change our application; right before Paul says, “now unto Him who is able to do abundantly more,” he says we need to be filled with the fulness of God. Paul’s entire letter is profoundly practical, yet it is surrounded by doctrine. Paul instructed Timothy to watch his life and doctrine. While that is a pastoral letter, it is good advice for all of us. We can only know God in His fullness through reading, knowing, and understanding the Scripture.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is another often quoted portion of Scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We can only trust God if we know Him. It’s easy to lean on our understanding, and it’s our default position to trust in our ability.
Whether we are talking about physical strength, the ability to make money, or remaining emotionally secure through devastating circumstances, that power and capability comes from God. But, on the flip side, if we hit financial struggles, become physically weak, or break down emotionally, the same God who empowers us is also there to comfort us, get us back on track, and be perfected in our weakness. Scripture says, when I am weak, I am strong. However, God doesn’t see strength and weakness the same way we do. He empowers us, but He also carries us. None of us like going through valleys, but in those valleys, we see God for who he is; in those times, we realize it’s not our strength that gets us through but His. In those times, we acknowledge our weakness pushes us to grab hold of actual power, the strength that is found on the inside, the strength that is Christ Himself.
Think of all that Paul went through; the beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecked, and run out of countless towns; how did he get through all that? He relied on the strength that he wrote to the Ephesians about.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13 ESV